Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette
Author: Carolly Erickson
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Published: January 1, 1997
Hardcover: 352 pages
Source: borrowed from library

My Rating: 2 stars

Synopsis (from Imagine that, on the night before she is to die under the blade of the guillotine, Marie Antoinette leaves behind in her prison cell a diary telling the story of her life—from her privileged childhood as Austrian Archduchess to her years as glamorous mistress of Versailles to the heartbreak of imprisonment and humiliation during the French Revolution. 

Carolly Erickson takes the reader deep into the psyche of France’s doomed queen: her love affair with handsome Swedish diplomat Count Axel Fersen, who risked his life to save her; her fears on the terrifying night the Parisian mob broke into her palace bedroom intent on murdering her and her family; her harrowing attempted flight from France in disguise; her recapture and the grim months of harsh captivity; her agony when her beloved husband was guillotined and her young son was torn from her arms, never to be seen again.

Erickson brilliantly captures the queen’s voice, her hopes, her dreads, and her suffering. We follow, mesmerized, as she reveals every detail of her remarkable, eventful life—from her teenage years when she began keeping a diary to her final days when she awaited her own bloody appointment with the guillotine.

My Thoughts: I was wandering around the library, trying to figure out what I want to read. I saw this book and decided that it would be a good book. I enjoy reading about the French Revolution and I consider Marie Antoinette to be one of the most facinating women in history. Unfortunately, this book was a big let down. The characters were bland (including Marie), it dragged in parts, and it seemed like huge parts of the French Revolution were never mentioned. It all added up to a lackluster book and something that I was looking forward to finishing.

This is the supposed diary of Marie Antoinette, started when she was 14 years old and still living in Austria with her family. Covering such a great time span and with so much change occuring all around the globe, there was just too much that Erickson was trying to touch upon. Instead of focusing on Marie's time at Versailles, I felt that there was a lot of talk about the American Revolution. I know that this was a big occurance at the time, but I don't know how much Marie would have actually known about it. Then, when you get to the revolution, Marie seems to know nothing about what is going on. It just seems like she is whining a lot. Now, I have never been chased by a mob with pitchforks or imprisioned, but Marie just seems to constantly complain about her lack of clothing/luxuries and not the current events, which she was focusing on earlier in the book. It was just too much a difference for me. If you want Marie to be a woman in the know about world events, that's fine. But make sure that she stays that way throughout the book.

The other characters in the book were dull and lifeless. This was such a huge part of history and instead of infusing some excitement into the book, it just makes it drag. I thought that Erickson had a nice flow with her writing, so I might check out one of her other books, but this book just left me wanting something more.

1 comment:

  1. Oh man, I was so excited when I saw the cover of this book, it's so pretty!

    I love Carolly Erickson's historical non-fiction-- it's a shame that her fictional writing doesn't live up to how she portrays the REAL Marie Antoinette through facts and research... If you want a GOOD representation of Marie and her world, read Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser! That is, if you like non-fiction biographies. Personally, I think they are more interesting than novels because they stick to what is actually known...

    It's interesting that she presented such a conflicting, contradictory image of the queen... From what I understand, Marie led an extremely sheltered and isolated life at Versailles-- she had very little idea about what was going on in the greater world, and was very naive about the suffering of the masses. As you probably know, her most famous quote "Let them eat cake" was never said by her, but she was blamed for France's poverty and used as a scapegoat by the public because she was a symbol of everything they were against...

    Allison Weir is another amazing historical researcher and writer of non-fiction, factual biographies-- she also tried her hand at writing a novel about Queen Elizabeth I and I couldn't stand it haha-- I don't like when the history I know so well is tampered with and changed, especially since I think the actual facts are interesting enough by themselves!

    Thanks for the review. I myself will stick to my non-fiction biographies when it comes to historical women I'm interested in-- Marie and Queen Elizabeth are my two favorites! :)

    Lea @ LC's Adventures in Libraryland